18.7.15

I locked myself on a roof in Taipei

View from ZhuWei High School
Me and the other white folks I’m with have been working at a high school on the edge of Taipei near the very tip of Taiwan. It’s jungley and lush and the ocean’s close by. It’s beautiful.

Every day, I thought, “I need to take some pics so I can show the peeps back home,” but every day I didn’t.

But since today was the last day at this school, I set out to take those darn pictures.

The high school has five levels (it's an outdoor high school made of concrete). I wanted to get pics from the fifth level to get the best view, but when I reached the fifth floor, I saw there was another flight of stairs going up, so I thought, “Sweet! Rooftop view!” and went up.

On the landing, there was a door with a sign (in Chinese) leading to the roof. I wasn’t sure whether the sign said that I was allowed on the roof, but my rule while traveling is “I’m American so it’s OK.” So I ignored the sign and went on the roof, making sure not to shut the door behind me just in case it locked.

Just as I got on the roof, I got a message on my phone telling me I was needed in the school gym. So I turned around to go back through the door, but it was a closed. I tried to open it, but there was no knob, just a key hole and I didn’t have the key.

I looked around and found another door leading off the roof, but it was only open a little bit and wouldn’t budge no matter how hard I pulled. Since it's summer, we were the only people at the school, so there was no one around to shout to.

So I called the only other person in our group with cell phone service, but his phone answered the call without him knowing, so I was yelling, “Can you hear me??” while he sang to himself. (?)

The only other people I could call were Asians and I didn’t know how well the language barrier would facilitate a conversation about my current situation. Plus, they’d be like, “Why’d you go on the roof?”

I don’t really panic ever, but this is a situation where I kinda started panicking. I was sure people would notice me missing after an hour or so, but it was humid and especially hot on the roof. Plus, my data has been super sketch and I didn’t want to sit on the roof for an hour without internet. :(

So I noticed a ladder leading to a higher part of the roof, so I climbed it, thinking maybe there’d be a door leading down.

And there was! There were two trapdoors in the floor. I opened the first and saw a tiny room full of water (I’m not making this up). I opened the second and saw the same thing. I was like, “What the fetch is this place? Some torture chamber? Some Asian video game simulation thing?” (In hindsight, I think one was cold water and the other was hot. They were probably containers for the hot and cold water in the school.)

So the view was incredible, but I was still stuck. I was so panicky I didn’t even take pictures.
In my mind, I only had three options: climb off the roof somehow, post a plea on Facebook (if my data worked) and hope someone in Asia saw it, or pry open that second door that was stuck mostly shut.

I went back to the second door and tried pulling again. Nothing (again). I calmed down a little bit and thought, “Jason Bourne’s been to Asia. What would he do in this situation?”

I looked around for something to pry the door open with. I saw an old chair lying on its side. All I needed was a long stick to pry the door. So I threw the chair against the wall and broke off a long piece of wood. I tried to use it to pry the door open, but the wood was too old and the door was too stuck.

So, summoning the strength of Jason Bourne, I pulled on the door again. I put my foot on the wall I was pulling so hard. This time, it came loose and opened.

I was uber sweaty, but I outsmarted the roof.


And no, I never got the pictures.



Literally one of the two pics I got of this place.